Two suppliers outstripped by demand for firewood

Skip Johnston and the empty yard he had hoped would be full of dry firewood by now.PHOTOS: MARK...
Skip Johnston and the empty yard he had hoped would be full of dry firewood by now.PHOTOS: MARK PRICE
Wanaka's growing number of new houses with wood burners is outstripping the ability of firewood suppliers to keep up with demand for dry firewood.

Upper Cut Firewood owner Ivan Murdoch told the Otago Daily Times this week he had stopped taking orders for dry firewood.

And Luggate Sawmill operator Skip Johnston said heavy rain this week had affected his ability to supply, although he still had some dry logs to process.

Mr Murdoch, who took over the business in August, said those caught out by the lack of supply were often new people to the area.

Those more familiar with the annual shortage bought wet wood in spring and allowed it to dry over the summer, rather than ordering in autumn.

Mr Murdoch still has "semi-dry" wood for sale he expected people would be forced to burn. He is sourcing logs from as far away as Tuatapere.

Mr Johnston, meanwhile, has placed some of the blame for his shortage of dry firewood on the Queenstown Lakes District Council's resource consent process.

He says it has taken him four years and $40,000 to get consent to sell dry firewood from a property he is leasing from the council in Riverbank Rd.

"It should never have taken that long. I got messed around and messed around.

"It was just a terrible exercise to go through.

"I would never do it again, I'm telling you that."

Ivan Murdoch and Alex Martin turning wet logs into wet firewood.
Ivan Murdoch and Alex Martin turning wet logs into wet firewood.
Mr Johnston decided to set up the yard four years ago when he could see the dry firewood shortage looming.

But for the delay, he would have had 4000cu m of firewood under cover on the property this winter, he says.

Council resource consents manager Quinn McIntyre told the ODT Mr Johnston was charged a resource consenting fee of $3700.75 and the time taken was 20 months.

Mr McIntyre said the application was received in September 2015 but was rejected in October as being "woefully incomplete".

A new application was received in April 2016 and accepted for processing but later the same month more information was requested.

A final landscape plan was received and accepted in May 2017 and approval was granted in May 2017.

"The biggest delay was due to requiring a landscape assessment from the applicant which was then peer reviewed by council's expert landscape architect.

"It took a lot of discussion."

However, Mr McIntyre said he could see no reason why the firewood yard could not have been operating from May 2017.

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